Year-End is Coming………

My colleague Mackenzie and I are responsible for Blakely‘s monthly internal campaigns. They’re internal marketing campaigns, really, meant to make our colleagues laugh, think, feel supported, or get inspired.

May’s internal campaign looks like this:

Year-End?! What?!?! It’s early May!!!

I hear you. We thought Christmas in July was crazy, but the truth is that if you’re planning on doing an integrated, year-end campaign that starts with your holiday mailing and ends with your final e-blast on December 31, it’s time to start thinking about it. Seriously.

Why does year-end matter so much? First and foremost, this is when donors think about charitable giving the most. They’re in the giving spirit thanks to the holiday time period — they’re thinking about family and time together, and maybe they’re feeling really grateful for what they have, and a little emotional about those in need.

And even though at the end of the day donors are not purely motivated by tax credits, it is an incentive to make your biggest impact when the calendar year is wrapping up.

What’s our role as fundraisers? Since we know where donors’ heads are at, it’s time for us to be out there — reaching the right audience at the right time with the right message. That’s becoming increasingly difficult to do; there are more charities than ever competing for donors’ attention. We used to be able to send a beautiful holiday mailing to donors and prospective donors and that was that. Now that mailing can’t stand on its own; your overarching message needs to be supported on different channels shared in different ways to different audiences. It needs to be big, strong, powerful, and integrated.

So what do you need to be thinking about? It’s still early days in terms of planning, but here are some of the things you want to start pondering:

  1. Organizational Activities: You’ve heard me talk about the gin & tonic approach before, I think. It’s about mixing all the different departments at your organization so that you’re working together — for your donors’ sakes. Too often your marketing department has something totally different going on than you at year-end. See what you can do about aligning efforts so that donors aren’t seeing messages that don’t look like they’re coming from the same place. And if you can’t get marketing on board, ask them what they’re planning and see if you can align with it — as long as it’s not sacrificing donor experience, fundraising best practices, etc.
  2. Fundraising Proposition: Start thinking about what area of funding you want to put in front of donors. What’s your greatest funding need right now? What will inspire donors the most when they’re thinking about you? Whatever it is, it needs to be able to be shared across a number of communications on different channels, so you’ll want to be able to talk about it – and bring it to life – in a few different ways over the course of the campaign.
  3. Story: What story/ies are you telling to bring that fundraising proposition to life? How can you put it into context? Whose story will you tell? What will tug at donors’ heartstrings? Like the fundraising proposition, this story needs to be big enough to tell a few times in a few different ways, so make sure you have a good one — and lots of content to support it (interviews, videos, photos, etc.).
  4. Channel Strategy: The above speaks more to the creative strategy, but you’ve got to be thinking about how you’re sharing your message — is it mail only? Mail and email? Mail, email & landing page? Mail, email, landing page, video, Facebook ads, Google ads, Search ads, and a TV spot? Whether you’re keeping it simple, or getting your message out everywhere, start figuring out what that looks like, for the sake of budgets, content planning, and donor experience.

That’s it for now! Not too painful, right? But if you start pondering the above, you’ll get yourself into the year-end fundraising game. Brace yourselves… but we’re all in it together!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

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Pick your battles… but do battle!

 mar·ket·ing (märkədiNG)
the action or business of promoting and selling products or services
In oh so many ways, that’s what we do as fundraisers.
We share with (promote) donors and prospective donors the things (products or services) a charity is doing to better the world in some way, and inspire and motivate (sell) the donor to take action and give.
We’re lucky that the products or services we’re “selling” are more than running shoes or soap, but the concept really is similar.
And we face similar obstacles as marketers, too. Our stakeholders – programs people, communications colleagues, senior management – can have a very different idea of how to “promote and sell” (read: fundraise) than we – the professional fundraisers – do.
Or more specifically, when moving our fundraising communications up the chain of approval, our messages can become so diluted that they lose their ability to inspire, to motivate, to “sell”.
Case in point: a totally made-up sentence I’m writing off the top of my head:
  
Why? WHY?!?!?
No, but actually – why? The stakeholders are thinking of other stakeholders – staff and faculty. They’re acknowledging them, and being accountable to them, and trying to be proactive in not downplaying their part in doing better for students. I get it.
But see how it waters down the message? See how the donor is taken out of it? Or at least, there’s now an arm’s length between the donor and the beneficiary?
It’s also no longer about a student but instead students.
Straight up? It’s not as powerful.
And as fundraisers – as marketers – we know this. We know the emotion and directness of the first sentence is more powerful in promoting and selling what we do. But too often we cowtow to our stakeholders for their stakeholders.
And we lose our donors in the process.
I’m not telling you to get aggressive with your colleagues or the powers-that-be. But I am encouraging you to know when liberties in messaging are worth taking for the greater good. And I’m encouraging you – not to pick all battles – but to pick the right ones.
Good luck!

~~

Written by Maeve Strathy

20150326_Strathy_Maeve_02
Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising for eleven years.
Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | LinkedIn | Email

Is this philanthropy?

I think my fellow fundraisers would agree that our feeling about philanthropy isn’t that you should try to give, give, and give to every organization that approaches you. In fact, my fellow fundraisers would probably say, “JUST SUPPORT OUR ORGANIZATION!” But I digress…

I just read a great piece by Julie Blais Comeau (a.k.a. @EtiquetteJulie) in the Huffington Post, entitled: “Sticky Situations: Saying No to Charity”. Thank you to my sister @arundelgibson for tweeting about this article.

In @EtiquetteJulie’s piece, she talks about the steady flow of requests for donations in her workplace – one colleague is doing a run for the cure, another has a child whose school is selling chocolate bars to fundraise… the list goes on. I’m sure this has happened to you, or something similar. Julie discusses appropriate ways to say “no” to your coworkers when this occurs, all of which are very tactful and helpful.

This article made me think about something I once heard James Fleck, Canadian businessman and philanthropist, say:

Philanthropy is balancing your passion and your resources.

Would you consider it philanthropy if you dropped a loonie into one of those Salvation Army collection boxes? Would you consider it philanthropy if you gave a homeless person your spare change? I’m not saying it isn’t helpful or worthwhile to do this, but I’m asking:

Is this philanthropy???

My thought is that I’d rather make one meaningful contribution per year to an organization that I feel passionately about, and that I want to invest in.

What do you think? Please comment here with your thoughts, ideas, and musings.

OR, even better, email me at maeve@whatgivesphilanthropy.com to discuss getting involved with What Gives??? as a guest blogger.  I’d love to have you on board!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Fundraising & Peanuts

I just read an awesome article on The Fundraising Resource, a fundraising blog which I found via the CASE (Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) LinkedIn group.  It’s called “Everything I Know about Fundraising I Learned from the Peanuts Gang”, and it’s a fun & enlightening piece with some great and simple tips about fundraising as taught (indirectly) by Charlie Brown and friends.  These pearls of wisdom include being open to new approaches, making every ask count, and my favourite, “It’s all about the story”.

Enjoy this little tidbit, but check out the full article for much more great insight!

It’s all about the story
Linus does teach one of the great lessons. What is it that changed everything about Christmas for the Peanuts Gang? It wasn’t the 1st Prize in the decorating contest that Snoopy received, not the Christmas pageant, not Schroeder’s piano prowess, Lucy the Christmas Queen or Charlie’s droopy Christmas tree. It was the story. When Linus articulated what Christmas is all about it changed everything. The lesson is, it is not enough to simply say, “It’s that time of year to give again.” You have the responsibility to articulate the compelling message of the mission and impact of the gift every time you ask someone to consider giving their resources.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Enter email subject here

I just received an email in which the subject line was “Enter email subject here”. It seemed a funny subject, but then I thought, “Silly me! It must be about email subject lines and what is and isn’t effective.”

…it turns out that the email wasn’t about that at all. It must’ve been a slip-up, but either way it inspired me and helped me to conceive of today’s topic:

Email Subject Lines.

We’re all bombarded non-stop, all-day with emails. Emails from friends, family, co-workers, companies, groupons, airlines, etc. These emails are personal, commercial, and work-related. If I had to reply to every single email that I got at either of my email addresses (1 work, 1 personal), I wouldn’t have enough hours in the day. We have to prioritize: is this urgent? Who’s this from? What does the subject line say???

If a subject line says “urgent”, I’m more likely to open it faster. If I know who it’s from and they’re important to me, I’m more likely to open it faster. If the sender is not important to me and the subject suggests it isn’t urgent, then what other factors would get me to open it?

An exciting subject line.

But that brings me to my main question: What makes an email subject exciting??? How do we “Lift our message above the torrent” in order to break through the inbox? Is it customization? If our subject is specific to the person receiving the email, are they more likely to open it? And sooner?

“Mike — you’re going to want to be at this event!”
Will that do it?

Is it conciseness? Is short & sweet the key? On top of that, does excitement come from hyperbole or flashiness?

“The Best Event of the Year!”
Is that the trick?

The truth is, I don’t know the answer. My personal strategy is usually clarity over anything else; I want to know that the person receiving the email knows what it’s about before they even open it. But I’m no subject guru; I try different approaches with different emails, but haven’t really come to find something that always works.

In fundraising, we send out a lot of emails – solicitations, invitations, newsletters… the list goes on. Can we get someone to make a gift with a flashy subject line? I think we can, I just don’t yet know how.

What do you think??? Share your tips & tricks when it comes to email subject lines by commenting below.


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
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Lift your message above the torrent

Lift your message above the torrent (1)

I just read a great article via www.charityinfo.ca“Winston Churchill – a Twitter natural?”

Please enjoy Janet Gadeski’s piece for yourself, but in essence she is discussing taking the power of Twitter to what we do in fundraising.

What is the power of Twitter? What some argue is the deterioration of the English language (or any language) and our ability to express ourselves, I would argue is actually a very positive and neat evolution of expression.

On Twitter – if you didn’t already know – all posts (tweets) have to be 140 characters or less; it’s called microblogging. Yes, sometimes I take shortcuts by typing “U” instead of “You”, and yes, sometimes I use sentence fragments, but that’s just utilizing my precious characters carefully. Moreover, as Gadeski says, it’s about packing a punch in your tweets and turning them into “pithy, memorable” messages, and that’s not easy!

My high school English teacher once quoted Mark Twain (though I may be attributing this to the wrong author) from a letter he’d written to a friend: “I did not have time to write you a short letter, so I wrote you a long one instead”. My teacher quoted this after assigning us a 200-word paper — not exactly tough when I consider the lengthy papers I’ve written before, but as we all know, it’s easier to blather on with no word limit than it is to make a really solid point in a confined space.

When I say bringing the power of Twitter to fundraising, I don’t mean tweeting to your donors, though that’s good, too! I mean working to create short, to-the-point, concise messages.

As Gadeski writes, “Pithy, memorable messages – just what we want as fundraisers. In our accelerated world, even an elevator speech may be too long to remain in the brain. Every day, thousands of messages stream towards your donors, in every medium in the brain. You may be retreating as far as you can from the whole notion of Twitter, but you have to admit that conciseness will lift your messages above that torrent.”

Follow me @fundraisermaeve!


Written by Maeve Strathy

Maeve is the Founder of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in fundraising since 2007.

Click here to learn more about Maeve.

Connect with Maeve via:
Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn | Email